When I quit smoking

Nearly eight years ago I quit smoking.

And Guess what? It was hell; one of the most difficult things I’ve done.

But I had help. I used a prescription drug to get me past the overpowering cravings that followed in the first few days and weeks after my last cigarette. I also had family and friends who encouraged me to stay on course and permitted my irritability. Oh yeah, I also had a co-worker who used my predicament as an opportunity to try to get under my skin for his schadenfreude-fueled amusement. His plan worked.

And I also had willpower. I wanted to quit. I’d grown disgusted by smoking. The taste. The odour. The stinging sensation from smoke that had risen into my eyes. I was also concerned about the huge physical and financial toll of my near pack-a-day addiction.

I realized a major component to beating nicotine was patience. I had to learn to wait-out the cravings. That being said, the first few days combined to form a virtually continuous craving. It felt as if there was a nagging little voice in the back of my mind working to justify just one more cigarette.

I also learned that my addiction to nicotine had become ingrained into my daily routine. Wake up? Have a cigarette. Eat breakfast? Wash that down with smoke. Coffee? Smoke. Leave home for work? Smoke. Exit any building? Yep.

I had to  recognize that each of these day-to-day moments triggered cravings.

The good news is the intensity of these urges subsided over time. The same cravings that once seemed so absolutely physically and psychologically compelling gradually became mildly annoying and then almost non-existent.

Today, I’m only occasionally tempted by nicotine cravings. But it’s almost always when I am confronted by a waft of the seducing aroma generated by the lit cigarette of a downwind smoker. Or if I see cigarettes portrayed in a movie, television show or video game. Gone are the days when my daily life was filled with craving triggers.

I quit smoking on October 2, 2006.

However, my self-imposed “quit-date” was actually the day before, October 1. I had several cigarettes left-over for what I convinced myself were for, you know, just in case I couldn’t handle it. I struggled most of that entire day before I gave in to the cravings and relapsed. I smoked two or three cigarettes in a row.

That last nicotine-induced rush of dopamine-laced euphoria quickly turned to regret. I pulled the last two cigarettes out of the pack and crumbled them in my hand.

I haven’t looked back.

Quitting smoking was absolutely difficult. But none of the best things in life are easy. The time that I have spent not-smoking  has been enjoyed by my family and friends, and has been invested into leisure and work. The money I haven’t spent on cigarettes has been spent elsewhere. And finally my overall health is undoubtedly better.